It’s a common scenario. You and your partner have a disagreement that turns into a full-blown argument—complete with slamming doors and ill-chosen words.
Afterwards you both feel miserable, stuck, and very far apart. Even if the argument took a simmering form and no actual words—except body language– were spoken, the effect is the same. You and your love are disconnected.
It may seem as if you two are engaged in a wrestling match of wills where one has to acknowledge defeat or “cave in” so that resolution can occur. On the surface, this win-lose dynamic may appear to quell tension.
It’s true, there is always something to be learned from the other’s point of view. In the end, whether you see yourself as the “winner” or the “loser,” you two are still disconnected—perhaps more than before.
What if there was a way to resolve the hurt and angry feelings that go hand-in-hand with an argument AND end up feeling more connected than before? Is it even possible to come out of those wrestling matches of wills without one of you “winning” and the other “losing?”
We believe that it is possible.
When you are able to put connecting with your partner above being right or wrong, winner or loser, then you can resolve arguments and re-connect at the same time. In fact, when you and your mate learn to communicate in a different way, you may see all kinds of walls dissolve as you become closer and more intimate.
Jules has three great kids from a past marriage. He’s been with his new partner, Maria, for four years now. Even though Jules’ ex-wife is very involved with their children, Maria has become a mother-figure to them as well.
Problems arise, however, when Maria makes decisions about the kids without consulting with Jules first. He feels quite protective of his children and tends to get very angry when he feels Maria “takes over the parenting.”
This time, Maria told Jules’ 15 year old daughter she could go to the movies with a boy. When Jules hears of Maria’s decision, he shouts at her, slams his fist onto the table and then storms out of the house.
Depending on your own life and experiences, you may see either Jules or Maria as in the “right” with the other in the “wrong.” We could enter into our own argument about who should be the first to apologize, who is the “loser” of this battle. But none of this will help Jules and Maria shift their energies toward loving one another .
Using these tips to end an argument differently might make all the difference…
1.) Take a “Time In”
Many of us are familiar with the “time out” discipline technique with children. When your three year old is screaming, crying and seems out of control, sometimes it is helpful to sit him or her in a safe space to get it out and calm down. In a similar way, we recommend the “time in.” When you and your partner find that either or both of you are so angry and hurt that you can’t feel anything but the anger and hurt, you could take a “time in.”
Let’s face it, nobody can hear your point of view when it is coming or received from a heightened emotional state. At the point that Jules slammed his fist onto the table in fury, he probably couldn’t take in anything but his own fury. Maria may have felt angry as well or perhaps fearful. Both of them can take some time to calm down and go within. Deep breathing, of course, helps. But be sure you also use a “time in” to notice how you are feeling. Inquire within yourself to see what assumptions you may be making about the situation and what other feelings you are having in addition to the anger.
2.) Open to Win-Win
The “time in” may give you a deeper look at why you experienced such strong emotions around the topic you and your mate argued about. Perhaps Jules realized that beneath his anger were fears about his teenage daughter becoming more independent and embarking upon love relationships. He discovered a belief within himself that his children will only be safe if he is the one making the decisions—not Maria, not his ex-wife, not even his own kids. From this clearer place, Jules might choose to return home, apologize to Maria, and even share his realizations with her.
From her calmer, clearer place, Maria can better hear Jules and understand what motivated his outburst. She might have discovered her longing to be a mother and to guide these children she cares so much about. She could also share with Jules what she realized about her own motivations and, together, they can come up with a resolution that they both feel good about as well as a plan for future situations.
Pretty much everyone dislikes arguing and the disconnected feelings that result. When you are able to come together and really hear one another, however, resolutions where there are no winners or losers are possible.